The White Ribbon: Wikis


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The White Ribbon

German-language poster
Directed by Michael Haneke
Produced by Stefan Arndt
Veit Heiduschka
Michael Katz
Written by Michael Haneke
Narrated by Ernst Jacobi
Starring Christian Friedel
Ulrich Tukur
Josef Bierbichler
Cinematography Christian Berger
Editing by Monika Willi
Distributed by Filmladen
Les Films du Losange
Lucky Road
X Verleih AG
Release date(s) 21 May 2009 (2009-05-21)
(Cannes Festival)
02009-09-17 17 September 2009
02009-09-24 24 September 2009
02009-10-21 21 October 2009
02009-10-30 30 October 2009
Running time 144 minutes
Country Austria
Language German
Budget 12 million

The White Ribbon (German: Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte) is a 2009 black and white drama written and directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. The story darkly depicts society and family in a northern German village just before World War I. According to Haneke, the film is about "the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature."[1]

It premiered at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in May 2009 and won the Palme d'Or, followed by positive reviews and several other major awards, including the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film then received two nominations for Academy Awards; 2009 Best Foreign Language Film (representing Germany) and 2009 Best Cinematography (Christian Berger).



The events portrayed in the film are narrated as distant memories of the village schoolteacher in the year that he met his fiancee Eva.

The setting is the fictitious Protestant village of Eichwald, Germany between July 1913 and August 1914. Here the pastor, the doctor and the baron rule the roost over women, children and peasant farmers. The puritanical pastor gives confirmation classes and causes his pubescent children a guilty conscience over trivial offenses. He makes them wear white ribbons to remind them of the innocence and purity from which they have strayed. When his son confesses to impure touching, the pastor has the boy’s hands tied to the bed frame. The doctor, who treats the village children kindly, nevertheless humiliates his housekeeper/mistress (the local midwife) and sexually abuses his own daughter. The baron, who is the lord of the manor, underwrites harvest festivities for the villagers, many of whom are the immigrant workers in his employ. He may summarily dismiss his twins' nanny Eva for no apparent reason yet defend the integrity of the farmer whose son has taken his revenge on the baron with the destruction of a field of cabbages.

Mysterious things happen. A wire is stretched between two trees causing the doctor a terrible fall from his horse. The farmer's wife dies at the sawmill when rotten floorboards give way; her grieving husband later hangs himself. The baron’s eldest son goes missing on the day of the harvest festival and is found the following morning in the sawmill, bound and thrashed with a cane. A barn at the manor burns down. The handicapped son of the midwife is attacked and almost blinded. The pastor's parakeet is cruelly impaled—in this case we witness his daughter's preparations before the act. The midwife commandeers a bicycle from the schoolteacher to go into town, claiming that she has evidence for the police given to her by her son. She is not seen again, and neither is her son. The culprits remain undetected and the events are not explained.

The schoolteacher's growing suspicions lead to a confrontation in the rectory, where he suggests to the pastor that his children have severely bullied the weaker in the village. Offended, the pastor immediately threatens him, warning that he will face disciplinary measures if he repeats his accusations again.

The film ends at the time of the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and with the declaration of war on Serbia by Austria–Hungary. The conclusion comes in church on the day of a visit from the narrator's prospective father-in-law. Disquiet remains in the village but nothing has been discovered and no one accused.

The narrator left Eichwald, never to return.


  • Christian Friedel as the school teacher
  • Ernst Jacobi as narrator (the school teacher many years later)
  • Leonie Benesch as Eva, nanny to the baron and baroness's twin babies
  • Ulrich Tukur as the baron
  • Ursina Lardi as the baroness, Marie-Louise
  • Fion Mutert as Sigmund, their oldest son
  • Michael Kranz as Sigmund's tutor
  • Burghart Klaußner as the pastor
  • Steffi Kühnert as Anna, the pastor's wife
  • Maria-Victoria Dragus as Klara, their oldest daughter
  • Leonard Proxauf as Martin, their oldest son
  • Levin Henning as Adolf
  • Johanna Busse as Margarete
  • Thibault Sérié as Gustav
  • Josef Bierbichler as the baron's steward
  • Gabriela Maria Schmeide as Emma, his wife
  • Janina Fautz as Erna, their daughter
  • Enno Trebs as Georg
  • Theo Trebs as Ferdinand
  • Rainer Bock as the doctor
  • Roxane Duran as Anna, the doctor's daughter
  • Susanne Lothar as the midwife
  • Eddy Grahl as Karli, her son
  • Branko Samarovski as a peasant
  • Birgit Minichmayr as Frieda
  • Aaron Denkel as Kurti
  • Detlev Buck as Eva's father
  • Carmen-Maja Antoni as the washer of corpses


Haneke has said the project was in development for more than ten years.[2] The initial version of the script was written as a television mini-series for the Austrian broadcaster ORF, but when no co-producer who was willing to invest in the project had been found after five years had passed, Haneke decided to put the project on hold.[3] Eventually revived as a feature film, the production was led by the Austrian company Wega Film. It was also co-produced by X Filme (Germany), Les Films Du Losange (France) and Lucky Red (Italy).[4] The film received financial support from the Austrian Film Institute, various local funds in Germany, the French CNC and the Council of Europe's film fund Eurimages.[5] It had a total budget of around 12 million Euro.[3]

More than 7000 children were interviewed during the six-month-long casting period. For most of the adult roles, Haneke selected actors with whom he had worked before and therefore knew they were suitable for the roles.[2] The role of the pastor was originally written for Ulrich Mühe, an actor who had starred in several of Haneke's past productions, but who died in 2007. Various actors were considered for replacement and eventually the part went to Burghart Klaußner, whom the director did not personally know before. Actors with significant stage experience were preferred because of the measured language of the screenplay.[6]

Filming took place between 9 June and 4 September 2008. Locations were used in Leipzig, Lübeck, Michaelisbruch (Dreetz) and Netzow (Plattenburg)[7] and Dassow (Schloss Johannstorf).[8] The choice to make the film in black and white was based partly on the resemblance to photographs of the era, but also to create a distancing effect.[2] All scenes were originally shot in color and then altered to black and white. Christian Berger, Haneke's usual director of photography, shot the film on Super 35 using a Moviecam Compact. Before filming started, Berger studied the black and white films Ingmar Bergman made with Sven Nykvist as cinematographer. Haneke wanted the environments to be very dark, so many indoor scenes used only practical light sources such as oil lamps and candles. In some of the darkest scenes, where the crew had been forced to add artificial lighting, extra shadows could be removed in the digital post-production which allowed for extensive retouching.[9] The team in Vienna also sharpened objects and facial expressions, and modern details were removed from the images. In the dance scene, where the camera moves in 360 degrees, tiles were added frame by frame to replace the original Eternit roofs.[6]


The film premiered on 21 May 2009 as an official selection at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival and had its theatrical release in Austria on 25 September 2009.[3][10] In Germany, it was released in selected cinemas on 17 September, followed by a wide release on 15 October.[11] For American distribution, it was released by Sony Pictures Classics on 30 December 2009.[12]

With a fully German cast and setting, as well as being co-produced by a German company, it has been discussed whether the film should be regarded as an Austrian or German production. Haneke himself has expressed how he is uninterested in such categorization: "in the Olympic Games the medal doesn't go to the country, but to the athlete." The general consensus is that it primarily is a Michael Haneke film, and secondarily a European production.[13]


In Oberösterreichische Nachrichten, Julia Evers called the film "an oppressive and impressive moral painting, in which neither the audience nor the people in the village find an escape and a valve from the web of authority, hierarchy and violence. [...] Everything in The White Ribbon is true. And that is why it is so difficult to bear."[14] Markus Keuschnigg of Die Presse praised the "sober cinematography" along with the pacing of the narrative. Keuschnigg opposed any claims about the director being cold and cynical, instead hailing him as uncompromising and sincerely humanistic.[15] Die Welt's Peter Zander compared The White Ribbon to Haneke's previous films Benny's Video and Funny Games, both centering around the theme of violence. Zander concluded that while the violence in the previous films had seemed distant and constructed, The White Ribbon demonstrates how it is a part of our reality. Zander also applauded the "perfectly cast children", whom he held as "the real stars of this film".[16] "Mighty, monolithic and fearsome it stands in the cinema landscape. A horror drama, free from horror images", Christian Buß wrote in Der Spiegel, and expressed delight in how the film deviates from the conventions of contemporary German cinema: "Director Michael Haneke forces us to learn how to see again". Buß suggested references in the name of the fictious village, "Eichwald", to the Nazi Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann and the Buchenwald concentration camp.[17] Eichwald is however a common German place name, meaning the "Oak Forest".

The film currently holds an 88% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 80 reviews.[18]

Awards and honors

In Cannes, the film won the Palme d'Or, FIPRESCI prize, given by the International Federation of Film Critics, and a special mention from the ecumenical jury.[10][19] This was followed in August by the FIPRESCI Grand Prix for best film of the year.[20] It won three major prizes at the 2009 European Film Awards, held in Bochum, Germany, for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenwriter.[21]

At the 67th annual Golden Globes, the film won the award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The film was Germany's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.[22] This has caused some controversy as well as confusion about the rules of the Academy, which would have accepted a submission from either Germany or Austria. Martin Schweighofer, head of the Austrian Film Commission, has expressed that he is not happy with the decision: "The discomfort arises because of the vague rules of the Academy. In essential regards the film is Austrian." It has been reported that the American distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, pressured Germany to submit it rather than Austria for tactical reasons, since Austrian films have been nominated two years in a row with 2007's The Counterfeiters and 2008's Revanche, making a third consecutive nomination statistically unlikely.[23]


  1. ^ Austria Presse Agentur (2009-05-24) "Michael Haneke: Das Spiel mit der Angst" (in German). Kurier. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  2. ^ a b c Lemercier, Fabien (2009-05-21) "Interview with Michael Haneke". Cineuropa. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  3. ^ a b c Austria Presse Agentur (2009-04-23) "Michael Hanekes ist im Wettbewerb" (in German). Der Standard. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  4. ^ Vienna Film Fund - Das weiße Band
  5. ^ Weisse Band, Das (in German). Austrian Film Institute. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  6. ^ a b Omasta, Michael; Pekler, Michael. "In jedem meiner Filme muss ich laut lachen" (in German). Falter. 38/2009. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  7. ^ The White Ribbon. Deutsches Filminstitut Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  8. ^ Freude in Dassow nach Golden Globes
  9. ^ Oppenheimer, Jean. "Rural Terrorism". American Cinematographer (January 2010): 18–24. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  10. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: The White Ribbon". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  11. ^ DAS WEISSE BAND - EINE DEUTSCHE KINDERGESCHICHTE (in German). X Verleih AG. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  12. ^ McClintock, Pamela (2009-06-17) "Sony to unfurl 'Ribbon' at Christmas". Variety. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
  13. ^ Austria Presse Agentur (2009-05-28) "Michael Hanekes 'Matura'-Feier" (in German). Der Standard. Retrieved 2009-05-30.
  14. ^ Ever, Julia (2009-09-23). "Eine deutsche Gewaltgeschichte" (in German). Oberösterreichische Nachrichten. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  15. ^ Keuschnigg, Markus (2009-09-21). "Nüchterner Humanismus" (in German). Die Presse. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  16. ^ Zander, Peter (2009-10-15). "Die schmerzhafte Kinderstube der Nazi-Generation" (in German). Die Welt. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  17. ^ Buß, Christian (2009-10-14). "Monster im Dorf" (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  18. ^ "The White Ribbon". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  19. ^ Stone, Jay (2009-05-23). "Antichrist gets an anti-award in Cannes". National Post. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
  20. ^ Hopewell, John (2009-08-27). "'White Ribbon' wins Fipresci prize". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  21. ^ Meza, Ed (2009-12-12). "'White Ribbon' is a fav at European Film Awards". Variety. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  22. ^ Meza, Ed (2009-08-26). "Oscar could wear 'White'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  23. ^ (2009-08-28) "Haneke greift für Deutschland nach Gold" (in German). Der Standard. Retrieved 2009-08-28.

External links

Preceded by
Waltz with Bashir
Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Succeeded by
Preceded by
European Film Award for Best European Film
Succeeded by


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